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How Mainstream Popularity has Changed Indie Films — A Closer Look at “Colossal”

WRITER : Admin | DATE : 19-10-18 | CATEGORY : Movies
You don’t have to be a film connoisseur or a Sundance festival regular to realize that the independent movie genre has shifted drastically over the past decade. What used to be a deep well of risky, often times irreverent, but always original passion projects has been contaminated by mainstream media and the younger generation’s increased interested in all things “indie”. The Sundance Film Festival itself was a passion project. In its beginning years, Sundance served as a platform for unknown, unconventional filmmakers to share their work in a previously unknown, unconventional city. The audiences were small, the tickets were cheap, and, subsequently, the directors/writers weren’t in it for the money. Nowadays, however, a well received Sundance film will not only find it’s way onto the big screen, but it will, more often than not, find it’s way to the Oscars. This transformation is not inherently a bad thing, but, as Robert Redford himself (chairman of the festival) puts it, “It’s no longer the place it was.”

So, how has this newfound increase in popularity affected the once indie movies? For that, you need look no further than Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal.

Starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, Colossal follows Gloria (Hathaway) an unemployed alcoholic writer, and Oscar (Sudeikis), a bar owner who never escaped his hometown, as the two try to make sense of their respectively shattered lives. After Gloria is forced to move back to her hometown, the two elementary school friends reunite and a natural, albeit expected, flirtatious friendship blossoms. Meanwhile, a giant monster is regularly attacking Seoul, South Korea, leaving hundreds dead in its wake. Not long into the movie, Gloria realizes she is in fact controlling the monster, (or, more accurately, she is the monster) and that every time her drunken stupor leads her to her childhood playground, the monster appears in Seoul. When she steps, the monster steps, when she dances, the monster dances, when she crushes woodchips, the monster crushes buildings. In other words, this movie provides a very literal interpretation of the sentiment that addictions don’t just hurt the addicted.

Now, in my humble, unqualified opinion, the first half of this movie is perfect. It’s funny, relatable, and ultimately, very original. In the second half however, Vigalondo makes a huge mistake, and one that I believe is done to cater to a more widespread, hollywood friendly audience.

What is his unforgivable faux pas? He tries to explain.

By invoking the “power” of a good lightning storm and the force of childhood trauma, Vigalondo attempts to use some magical, pseudo-scientific logic to explain Gloria’s connection to the monster. Not only is the scene incredibly trite and tacky, it’s also entirely unnecessary. The only logical reason I can find for Vigalondo’s random, mindless stab at making his plotline more “sensical” is that he did so to appeal to the new wave of Sundance Audience members.

The most significant difference between someone who thoroughly enjoys “indie” films and someone who enjoys indie-inspired hollywood films, is whether or not they can accept the inexplicable. If you need every loose end tied up and every minute detail explained, you belong in a Megaplex theater watching a summer blockbuster. Which is completely fine. I am not condemning those who consume movies and television as an outlet to escape their own stressful, complex lives. I understand the desire to have a simple, straightforward story that doesn’t require you to do any mental heavy-lifting. There’s a reason rom-coms rack in millions while low-budget documentaries are lucky to even get a public showing; not everyone likes films that make you think. But that concept, as many would argue, is the very essence of an indie movie.

I’m not one to “define” art and the last thing I want to do is hold creators to some arbitrary set of rules that accompanies their chosen mediums, styles, or genres. That being said, however, everything I’ve read/experienced regarding the independent film movement points to the idea that writers/directors remain independent to avoid having to compromise. But now that one of the largest independent film festivals has begun to serve a wider, exceedingly more mainstream audience, it would appear filmmakers have begun to yield to the blockbuster expectations of plot development.

I didn’t need to know how Anne Hathaway was the monster. The metaphor was beautiful, the connection to her addiction was clear, and I was comfortable filling in the sci-fi plot holes myself. Don’t waste my time trying to make 2 + 2 = 4, if you can make 4 the most unique, uncompromising, mentally stimulating storyline, I’ll gladly figure out how we got there on my own.


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